ur-history – remembrance – surrealist procedures

ur-history – a form of collective remembrance.

the basic distinction to be made between the monuments of prehistory and say the monuments of the nineteenth century in any metropolitan city is that unlike the monuments of the recent past the ones constructed in the neolithic were of necessity a collective endeavour.

our experience of the monuments of pre-history is one that triggers a form of collective remembrance – as the historical object makes present aspects of that past in the present – it is one that freud describes as uncanny in that it triggers in the form of images, the ghosts of this collective past; ‘an uncanny experience occurs either when infantile complexes which have been repressed are once more revived by some impress or when primitive beliefs which have been surmounted seem once again to be confirmed…. and that these two classes of uncanny experience are not always sharply distinguishable’. freud links these experiences to the collective but abandoned beliefs of ur-history ‘old general ideas fallen into disuse but which our moral organism never eliminates’ 

the material artefacts produced by past societies were used to create images that were intended not simply to mirror or reflect but actively orientate the nature of these societies. they were intended to be transformative or formed part of world to be transformed through them – to act on our perception and to aid cognition. they represent concrete social relationships between human subjects and are nor simply part of a world of objects. what we see through them is not simply the remains of the individual psyche but we get sight of the collective unconscious. ‘these images are wish images, and in them the collective attempts to transcend as well as to illumine the incompletedness of the social order of production’ benjamin

the derive adopted by surrealism has a clear thematic relationship with the archaeological practice of field walking.its concern with the artefact and its place in the land or city scape.it is one of direct engagement and it relies of a sensorial relationship with place and object-scapes
the attitude of the surrealists to the monuments of the third republic is one where surrealism attempts to wrest the revolutionary moments from the stasis of a society imbued with historicism by irrational procedures.